I'm a lifelong golfer. Not only do I enjoy the game; I'm emotionally invested in its health and future. Its biggest threat? Slow play. As a 12-year-old, I spent long summer days with my buddies Tony and Jack at the Youngstown, Ohio, muni. We followed two simple rules: (1) play fast and (2) don't bother anyone. We were serious players who could get around in under three hours. It was pure joy.
In high school, the length of our rounds grew to 3.5 hours. It jumped to the four-hour mark when I was competing at Indiana University, and dragged longer still during my 15 years working for NASA in Laurel, Md. Now? I'm lucky to finish in less than six hours at some courses.
I hate where this trend is going. Slow rounds suck the joy out of the game. They make people angry. And the funny thing is, all this slow play provides no benefit for the slow players. In my 30-plus years of golf research and study, I've found zero evidence that slow play improves scoring. The only thing slow play does is curb enjoyment.
Almost everyone needs to play faster, or we'll all end up grumpy—or just playing less golf. So out of respect for the game and your sanity, I'd like to offer three tips that will shave time off your rounds without making you rush your shots. They won't necessarily improve your scores, but they won't hurt them either. And you'll have more fun. Isn't that why we play?
1. Avoid "1-club" bag swaps
Always pull a club while replacing another. For example, keep your putter in your hands for the cart ride to the next tee after you hole out, then place it in your bag as you take out your driver. [Then keep your driver in hand until you pull your approach club.] The minutes you save by limiting club swaps will add up quickly.
2. Play from "Your" tees
Check the scorecard: If playing from a particular set of tees forces you to hit 5-iron or longer into most of the par-4 greens, then step up a box. By leaving yourself shorter approaches, you'll dramatically speed up your pace of play, because you'll hit more greens. The game will seem more fair and more fun.
3. Kick honors to the curb
Play "ready" golf. If you're ready to hit either from the tee box or fairway, then hit, even if it's not your turn. Get your foursome on board so that no one will be offended or fail to follow suit. Ready golf sends your rounds into warp speed and has little effect on a match, since honors even out over time.